Seven Wonders

When Maui looks like Muirfield, it just has to be an omen. The opening tournament of the calendar year worldwide – the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour – started with 40 mph wind and rain blowing sideways and the blowout of the first three days. Paradise Lost or at least Paradise Temporarily Missing caused professional golf to be turned upside down. And so it is with 2013. The PGA Tour season starts twice this year – once for the 2013 season this week in Hawaii and again for the 2014 season in October at the Fry’ Open. What a place to start a new season. Woo hoo. The 2013 season ends in September at The Tour Championship, and then a combination of top players from the Tour and bottom players from the PGA Tour will play for their jobs in a four-event series called … well, it’s not called anything. But I’m sure there are meetings as we speak to solve that little issue. Despite the typhoon or whatever in Hawaii, there will be golf this year. The European Tour has already started its season – in December – and plays 12 months a year, although only a handful of its tournaments are actually in Europe. And by now, if you have more questions than answers, well, welcome to our world. Not to confuse you, here are some more:
Can Rory McIlroy remain No. 1 with a new equipment deal?
It’s hard to turn down $250 million just to have somebody else carry a big sack of golf clubs for you and, besides, David Feherty said McIlroy could play high-level golf with a hockey stick and an orange. That may be so, but the road to the top is littered with players who sold their souls for the money. Payne Stewart once played a Top-Flite golf ball and couldn’t find his hind parts with both hands. Greg Norman could have won at least four more majors if he had played a decent ball. (Remember the Tour Edition?) It’s not that one company’s equipment is so much superior to the other these days, it’s the concept of comfort and confidence. Doubt is the great killer of golf swings and new, unfamiliar equipment can create that doubt – at least for a while.
Will Tiger win another major, blah, blah, blah?
Well, he hasn’t won one since he played the U.S. Open on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008. So, the short answer is no. But he did win three PGA Tour events last year and he wasn’t competing against the fifth flight in the club championship. So, the long answer is that he’s capable. But until he gets his nerve and his short game back – and whose bright idea was it to change the greatest short game, maybe ever? – he’s got no chance. Maybe The Masters. Or not.
Is Bubba a one-jacket wonder?
Let’s put it this way: Watson can’t hit it straight enough to win any of the other majors and that shot he hit in the playoff at The Masters could just as easily have been a complete disaster instead of a miracle. Was Bubba lucky? You work that out for yourself. But luck never won anybody more than one major.
Why can’t Ian Poulter play as well in major championships as he does in the Ryder Cup?
He’d like to know the answer to that question, too. He’s long been accused of being all mouth and trousers and the Ryder Cup is the perfect venue for such an attitude. He loves beating Americans more than eating when he’s hungry. But a major requires patience and calm instead of yelling and fist-pumping. If Poulter learns that, he can beat Americans in other ways, too.
Can anyone challenge McIlroy at No. 1?
Maybe not. But Justin Rose has the best chance. He would have won the DP World Championship, the season-ender for the Race To Dubai, except that McIlroy made birdies on the last five holes to negate Rose’s final-round 62. Rose was third in the PGA Championship at Kiawah and second at The Tour Championship. More than any of the players at the top of the game, Rose knows adversity. There’s no greater preparation for success.
What’s going to happen to Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Carl Pettersson, Tim Clark and all the other anchored putters on Tour?
They have three years to make a change. And none of them are in any hurry to compete with a short putter. Why should they? The rule doesn’t take effect until 2016 and three years is a lifetime on Tour. They will win a lot of tournaments and make a lot of money in the meantime. But the bigger questions are: When the first of that group wins in 2013, what kind of stigma will he carry? Who will be the first to be labeled as a cheater?
Can Merion hold up as a modern U.S. Open venue?
It’s going to be short and tight and there will be a lot of 2-irons in players’ bags to utilize off the tee. There will be a great winner, regardless of how many under par the winning score turns out to be. Unless, of course, the champion uses an anchored putter. Then, of course, he will be a pariah


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